So much for a slow first day of the winter meetings, right? As if jettisoning Jamie Hoffmann wasn’t enough, the Dodgers officially signed utilityman Jerry Hairston and reportedly are close to picking up starting pitcher Aaron Harang. Since the Harang deal isn’t final – the last report I saw said that the Dodgers are offering two years, but Harang is looking for three, which, good lord – we’ll focus on the deal we know about for sure, two years and $6m for Hairston, 36 in May. (Dylan Hernandez reports that like all Dodger contracts, it’ll be backloaded as $2.25m/$3.75m, which is tough to swallow when his previous high salary was $2.5m six years ago.)
Taken on its own merits, I don’t have a big issue with this signing. Hairston’s a useful enough piece, one who adds flexibility to a bench with his ability to play six positions with varying degrees of success, and on a team with so many questions in the infield, that flexibility will likely come in handy. His offensive performance has been all over the place – OBP of .384 in 2008 and .344 in 2011, but also .315 in 2009 and .299 in 2010 – but that’s generally to be expected from a bench piece, since you’re not acquiring him to be a starter. He’s being paid to generate about 1.5 WAR over the life of the contract, and since he put up 1.2 fWAR last year and 1.5 in 2010, it seems like he could at least earn the value. I don’t like the second year of the deal, though I admit that it was likely he’d have received that from someone else. (And, not that I care about this type of thing as much as some, he seems really excited to join the Dodgers, at least according to these quotes that SBNation‘s Amy K. Nelson collected.)
So while it’s probably not what I would have done, Hairston’s a decent fit on a National League bench, so fine. Welcome aboard, new Jamey Carroll.
Here’s the thing, though. While Hairston by himself might be okay, it does make you question just what the plan was for this offseason, because these moves don’t happen independently of each other. In Hairston, you have a versatile defender who can sorta-but-not-really hit. In Mark Ellis, you have a good defensive second baseman who can sorta-but-not-really hit. And to round it out, you have Adam Kennedy, who can kind of play a few positions but absolutely cannot hit.
Basically, if you have Hairston, then what in the hell is Adam Kennedy for? Kennedy was completely useless when he was signed, and it looks even worse now; I’ve had readers defending him by saying that it’s only $800k, but that’s not the point. The point is, he was signed to a major-league deal before the end of November when there was absolutely no need for him to have been, and now that roster spot is lost. Now there’s no chance to bring in an offensive counterpart to Hairston on the bench, like a Wilson Betemit or someone similar. Hairston could be decent, but on this team, he’s just another in a long line of utility infielders who can’t really bring the offensive punch the Dodgers need.
Worse, the age trend here is terrifying. Kennedy is 36 in January. Matt Treanor is 36 in March. Hairston turns 36 in May, which is also when Harang is 34. Ellis is 35 in June. Juan Rivera will be 34 in July. Chris Capuano is 34 in August. That’s seven signings (assuming Harang arrives), and not a single one younger than Capuano. This group is also combining for something around $18.5m in 2011, and with backloading, it could be over $26m in 2013.
So sure, welcome aboard, Jerry. Sorry you’re getting blowback because you happen to be another in a series of questionable decisions by a general manager whose moves are increasingly difficult to reconcile.